Blessed Are You When Men Shall Revile You and Persecute You and Say All Manner of Evil Against You Falsely, For My Sake. Rejoice and Be Exceeding Glad, For Great is Your Reward in Heaven

Our Lord’s words are “powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow,” for the Word and Son of God is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). He knows that listeners to His voice desire more than to marvel at the blessed poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and peacemakers. They want to become what they admire and the Lord already begins to accomplish that transformation by shifting from speaking about them in the third person to speaking to you in the second and to the blessedness … [Read more...]

Virtue: The Ultimate Remedy for the Problem and the Passion of Anger

In the past blog posts on anger, we have seen the way in which modern approaches to managing anger can be used by Christians in a way that is consistent with the teachings of earlier ascetics. Consistency with Christianity and the message of Christianity, however, are not the same. The ultimate cure for the problem of anger is not to be found solely in techniques such as relaxation, reframing the situation, taking a time out, thought stopping , or assertiveness training, as valuable as these techniques may be. No, the ultimate cure can only be found in acquiring the virtues inherent in the … [Read more...]

How to Respond to Conflicts- Choices that Determine our Lives

As unpleasant as conflict is, it seems to be an inevitable part of life.  There are many reasons for this, but such are not the subject of this post.  I would rather like to focus our attention on the three main options available to us in responding to a person who wrongs us, namely: aggression, passivity or assertiveness.  It should be clear from the previous posts on anger that aggression against another is an unchristian and decidedly unhealthy manner in which to respond to conflict.  An aggressive response will likely lead to an escalation of grievances rife with negative consequences that … [Read more...]

The Beauty of Synergeia

For the farmer who has labored over plowing the field and planting the seed, there is nothing so welcome as the seasonable warmth of the sun and coolness of the rain that contribute to the new plants growth. This is the very image that Saint John Chrysostom uses to explain what is meant by synergeia or synergy, the collaboration and cooperation between God and man in salvation (Homily 6 on Genesis). According to Saint Athanasios the Great, only with the synergy of the Lord is it possible for us to grow in virtue and acquire purity of heart. In a previous post, I referred to a book entitled … [Read more...]

Understanding Bloody Struggles, Despair, and Freedom on the Spiritual Plane

“These are the times that try men's souls...the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  What we may obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: 'tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods.  It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” — Thomas Paine “Without a struggle and shedding your blood, don’t expect freedom from the passions. Our earth produces thorns and thistles after the Fall. We have been ordered to clean it, but only with much pain, bloody hands, and many sighs … [Read more...]

Patristic Experience Concerning Bad Thoughts and Demonic Influences

Saint Peter once wrote, “Be sober [watchful], be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” It is a curious saying, because it’s hard to miss a roaring lion, but without watchfulness and wakefulness, when we are distracted and sleepy, we don’t see or sense that roaring lion. But when we become aware of the ravaged landscape of our minds and lives or the minds and lives of others, we can’t help but wonder how such devastation could have taken place. Part of the answer is carelessness; another part of the answer is mistakes; still … [Read more...]

Law, Medicine, and Thoughts: East and West

Nearly every blog post written on this site has concerned itself with the realm of the thoughts and how they play a significant role in one’s psychological state and one’s spiritual life.  It occurs to me that some more background information might be appropriate at this point. As an Orthodox spiritual father confessor, it is my task to assist each of my spiritual children in examining the inner world of their thoughts, in order to get to the root of the behaviors, emotional reactions, and motivations that tend to define their lives.  The ancient fathers tell us that it is in the thoughts … [Read more...]

Spiritual Warfare, the Passions and the Commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist

In addition to Holy Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, the liturgical texts of the Church offer the faithful a feast of wise teachings about the need to watch over one’s thoughts and the consequences of failing to do so. For example, yesterday we commemorated the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.   In the odes of the canon in honor of the forerunner and chanted during Matins, the faithful discover precious truths about spiritual warfare, the passions, the virtues, and the constant need for spiritual vigilance. Before delving into the topic of this blog post, it may be … [Read more...]

The Passions, Remembrance of God, and the Jesus Prayer

In the daily struggles of life, most of us assume that the passions such as anger, envy, jealousy, or lust are engendered by the circumstances in which we live.  One who perceives a negative situation, either from a demanding boss, a critical spouse, or a difficult child and yields to the passions may think “Well, if my boss hadn’t made that comment I wouldn’t be angry” or “If my husband would just do what I ask him. . .I wouldn’t have given in to anger or judgment.”  Once we begin to think this way, we start to give in to sinful behavior ourselves.  We justify such behavior by concluding that … [Read more...]